Watchdog calls for equal treatment of journalists, more opposition protests held

Watchdog calls for equal treatment of journalists, more opposition protests held

Association

Human Rights NGOs present data on pressure against civic activists

In November 2021, several human rights defenders held a press conference to present data on pressure exerted on civic activists in 2021. According to their statistics, in 2021, about 74 people needed the assistance of specialised NGOs for protection against repressive measures and illegal persecution by state institutions. According to a press release issued by the Open Society Georgia Foundation, 34 cases were related to journalists and activists affected by the 5th July 2021 attacks when protests, previously documented, took place in Tbilisi. Five NGOs provided legal assistance under a joint project called "Legal Aid Network for Activists".

Peaceful Assembly

Georgian opposition organised protests in support of Mikhail Saakashvili

In early November 2021, the Georgian opposition announced that it would hold protests against the results of the October 2021 local elections. Although demonstrations were initially announced for 7th November 2021 (the anniversary of the 2007 violent protests), opposition leaders reversed their decision and announced that protests would instead be held on 6th November 2021 to avoid coinciding with the 2007 rally dispersal anniversary. Protests were held also in the following days, prompting the police to install protective barriers as the number of people joining the rally increased. Opposition leaders also sounded the alarm over the health of Mikhail Saakashvili, detained former president and former leader of the United National Movement - Georgia's main opposition force. As previously reported, a few days before the October 2021 elections, Saakashvili was detained by the authorities on his return to the country. According to Radio Free Europe, the protesters made three demands: the transfer of Saakashvili to a civilian clinic, his release from detention and new municipal and mayoral elections.

Opposition protests held over local budgets

In November 2021, opposition protests took place in two other Georgian cities, Batumi and Zugdidi, where opposition leaders protested against adopting local budgets for 2022, after the newly elected members of the local councils, who represent the opposition, were excluded from the budget approval process organised by Georgian Dream, the party that holds the majority. As a result, representatives of opposition parties tried to stop the hearings. The police intervened and removed the opposition representatives from the building, and the protests continued outside as protesters in both cities engaging in verbal altercations with the police. Six people were detained following the altercations.

Expression

Watchdog calls for equal treatment of journalists

Several Georgian media organisations urged authorities to avoid discriminating against journalists who criticise the government, noting that this hinders the public’s access to the information. According to an appeal published by the Media Advocacy Coalition, the Georgia Ministry of Justice failed to invite government-critical journalists at a press conference about the situation of detained former president Mikhail Saakashvili. Only TV Pirveli was allowed to access the event, but even then, their journalists were not allowed to ask questions. The Coalition called on public authorities to provide journalists with equal access to information.

Separately, the same Coalition also noted with concern the case of Ukrainian journalist and vlogger Volodymyr Zolkin who was banned from entering Georgia in November 2021 after he flew in to report on the political situation in Georgia, especially about the case of Mikhail Saakashvili (see above in peaceful assembly section). Earlier, another Ukrainian journalist had also been denied entry into the country. Both journalists had their documents.